What Causes Old Book Smell?

old books
Photo Credit: Ian Sane via Compfight cc

Have you ever wondered what causes “old book smell” – you know, that slightly-musty-in-a-good-way smell?

If so, you can thank volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Which is good because it’s much easier to say “volatile organic compounds” instead of acetic acid, benzaldehyde, butanol, furfural, octanal, and (I’ll take Multisyllabic Chemical Names for $500, Alex) methoxyphenyloxime and you can still sound almost as smart.

Even more interesting (‘scuse me while I indulge in a book nerd moment here) is the field of degradomics.

Turns out that scientists have developed a “sniffer” that can determine the condition and age of books and papers based on smell.

How cool is that?

Those wacky research scientists and forensic chemists – what will they come up with next?

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